The Artful Szijjarto


On Tuesday Emily Maitliss interviewed Hungary’s Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto on BBC Newsnight. It was a remarkable interview for what was said by the straight talking politician. Maitliss was taking him to task for Hungary’s new anti migration laws. “We want to keep Hungary a Hungarian country and we don’t think that multiculturalism is by definition good.” Maitliss didn’t know where to put herself. Here was a minister from an EU country openly questioning the good of multiculturalism.  How could the world continue to function in a normal way? Maitliss tried to call him and all of his countrymen xenophobes but it didn’t really stand up to the fact that he had already questioned the holiest of holy taboos. The basis of EU/BBC/leftie worldview, that multiculturalism is the heart of any aspiration for a good and civilised society, was under attack. Not from an extremist but from a softly spoken, highly intelligent Hungarian politician.

Mr Szijjarto made some compelling points about security. He pointed out that he couldn’t understand why his border to the south, being as it was with a safe country, should be violated by people who wished to cross his country to get to Germany. His fundamental point, however, was that Hungary should be allowed to choose its own relationship with multiculturalism and, if it chose to reject it, that was no-one’s business but theirs. He said it was not up to the EU to decide who should live in Hungary, that was up to Hungarians. It was hard not to feel sympathy for such a position.

Mr Szijjarto’s thrust was that Hungary should be entitled to make laws and enforce them to deal with illegal migration. Everything he said went against decades of received wisdom on the subject of migration. He described hundreds of thousands of people amassing on his border to force their way across as a security threat. He pointed out that when all of those people were undocumented it was impossible to know how many terrorists could be hidden among their numbers.

Had Nigel Farage said what Mr Szijjarto said the shutters would have come down and all hell broken loose. It was somehow harder to dismiss Mr Szijjarto. What he was saying was not radical extremism, just the heartfelt sentiments of a man who clearly cared very deeply about the challenges his country faced.

Migration is an existential problem for the EU. As a huge protectionist organisation the EU refuses to trade fairly with the countries from which the migrants flee. No efforts are made to ensure that these places can build their own economies and sustain their own populations. We sell them weapons rather than trade in goods that would allow them to function normally. Their populations flee and come to us to solve their problems. Just accepting and sharing out the people who manage to make the perilous journeys north only exacerbates the problem. What is needed is a way to take the south out of war and poverty and allow it to become a place where people can make lives for themselves rather than seeking to flee. The EU takes the opposite tack, It places tariffs on imports from countries that desperately need to build their economies. It tells their populations that, if they can make it to Europe they will be able to stay and build lives for themselves they cannot have at home.

It is no wonder that people continue to come. Admittedly they are in smaller numbers than are displaced in the south, but they are still enough to be significant. It is no wonder tha countries like Hungary, and Italy and Greece are becoming sick of the part they are expected to play as a result of this mess. Mr Szijjarto is not an unreasonable man, merely someone faced with a problem he wishes to tackle in his own way. When Emily Maitliss points out to him that Hungary has very few migrants settling she is missing the point. Hungary can see the choices that countries like the UK made decades ago to go down a particular route towards multiculturalism and is choosing now not to do the same. That must be their choice. We cannot put our choices onto them nor expect them to make the same choices that we did. The problem of migration is more complex that simply forcing little countries like Hungary into line. If Hungary has decided it rejects multiculturalism then we can only respect their decision. The real solution is in finding a way out of war and poverty for the south, not in forcing countries like Hungary to deal with the symptoms of war and poverty.